‘The Last Jedi’ Makes It Hard To Just Chill ’Til The Next Episode
It’s hard not to get swept up in the intricate marketing campaigns of a franchise blockbuster movie whenever you’re looking forward to one. Ever since the first trailer for ‘The Last Jedi’ dropped, many have been fully on board for this. With anticipation building towards a crescendo, expectations keep rising , and it becomes increasingly difficult for reality to live up to the hype. For director Rian Johnson and his crew, judgment day has finally come.
Opening with a pulse-quickening dogfight in which Poe Dameron shows off his skills as arrogant “flyboy,” the film gets off to a fast start despite having the longest runtime of any Star Wars film ever. Now that their base has been revealed by attacking The First Order’s Starkiller Base at the end of the previous film, the resistance has to escape a pursuing fleet. This chase fuels the tension for the first half of the movie.
Those scenes alternate with Rey trying to convince a reclusive, curmudgeonly and very unwilling Luke Skywalker to train her on his isolated island. This mostly consists of talking heads (sometimes interplanetary talking heads), and even though it’s essential to plot and character development, not even the locale of a beautiful Irish island could save a Star Wars film consisting of only talk.
While the chase at times feels like a videogame, the dynamic visuals and interplay between characters keeps things from ever becoming tedious. The relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey develops in astonishing directions, culminating in a scene that’s sure to make you shout “f*** yeah!” How the story builds towards this moment is as alluring as the astonishingly bright red scenery it’s placed in — truly a feast for the eyes.
Speaking of enticing visuals, the battle on the salt plains of the planet Crayt is as astounding as those few shots in the trailer led us to suspect — and then some. Rian Johnson has enriched the Star Wars universe with some very arresting sights as well as engrossing character work. That makes the fact that some of the movie’s side-plots eventually turn out to be inconsequential to its overall story not too bothersome.
One of things that makes the Star Wars universe so appealing is that it has never been simply story of just good guys versus bad ones. Villains might be redeemed, heroes can be seduced by evil, and it’s in this eternal tug-of-war between light and dark that the best stories take place. Few movies in the saga thus far have played more effectively with these shades of gray. As obtuse as that may sound, saying more would spoil too much. Trust us when we say that things do not always play out as you expect them to.
Though there are some beautiful throwbacks to the previous trilogy, and Luke Skywalker finally gets that bad-ass moment you’ve been waiting for, ‘The Last Jedi’ relies less on the nostalgic story beats of its predecessor. Rather, its story hinges on the heroic exploits of Finn and newcomer Rose, and the struggle between Force-wielders Kylo Ren and Rey.
The strong ties to established lore, the winks to hardcore fans (green milk!), and the inclusion of unnecessary but unobtrusive comic-relief/merch magnets known as Porgs, all feel like a true Star Wars film. But the strong focus on new characters and how they fit into the overarching story feel fresher than ever. So much happens here that it almost feels like an entire trilogy in itself, yet ‘The Last Jedi’ never overstays its welcome. After seeing this, it’s pretty hard to just chill ’til the next episode.
This review originally appeared on and was written for MASS APPEAL